New Salmon Plan Fails to Address Effects of Dams, Global Warming
American Rivers Urges Judge Redden to Give New Administration a Chance to Get it RightJune 17th, 2008
Michael Garrity, American Rivers, 206-852-5583 (cell)
WASHINGTON, DC – Today a coalition of environmental and fishing organizations, including American Rivers, sued the National Marine Fisheries Service over the 2008 Biological Opinion, or Salmon Plan, on the Columbia and Snake river dams. The new Salmon Plan is the third attempt by NMFS in eight years to submit a plan that passes legal muster.
Statement by Michael Garrity, Associate Director of Columbia Basin Programs:
American Rivers joined this lawsuit because once again the Bush Administration has released a Salmon Plan with the kind of convoluted legal and scientific reasoning that would make a contortionist green with envy. Instead of looking at all credible scientific and economic options and choosing the actions that make sense, this plan is about doing whatever it takes to justify failed status quo dam operations. We urge Judge James A. Redden of the U.S. District Court for Oregon, who is likely to retain jurisdiction over this case, to invalidate the new plan and give the new Administration a chance to get it right.
One striking failure of this plan is that it does not adequately anticipate and address the widely expected effects of global warming on the Columbia and Snake rivers. As this map – global warming map – based on information from the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group shows, by 2070 the average temperature throughout much of the Columbia Basin will exceed healthy levels (68 degrees F or 20 degrees C) for salmon survival.
The vast majority of cool water habitat remaining in the summertime will be in high elevation Snake River tributary basins, such as the Salmon River basin in central Idaho and Grande Ronde basin in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington (the big blue areas on the map).
A legally valid plan must anticipate a warming climate, and include a plan to protect and provide access to the places like the Snake River basin where salmon can thrive in spite of a warming climate. Because access to the Snake basin’s cool, high elevation spawning grounds is currently severely limited by a gauntlet of dams on the Columbia and Snake, a warming climate only increases the urgency of improving salmon survival by removing the four high cost, low value lower Snake River dams and replacing their benefits through other means.
Fortunately, removing these dams needn’t add to global warming. The relatively small amount of energy provided by these four dams can be replaced through a combination of carbon-free renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, along with increased energy efficiency. Similarly, the barge transportation enabled by the lower Snake River dams can be replaced by other means, such as improved rail, highway, and lower Columbia River barge systems. Smart planning can ensure that dam removal protects local communities and economies at the same time that it restores salmon and creates new camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and hunting opportunities along a healthy, free-flowing river.